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MALTATODAY 27 March 2022

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6 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 27 MARCH 2022 OPINION 2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 27 MARCH 2022 The only loser is democracy Editorial THROUGHOUT this campaign (and even before) there was a general perception that the eventual result would be a 'foregone conclusion'. And with all polls and surveys pointing towards a continuation of Labour's winning streak – differing only in the precise margin of victory – the prospect of a last-minute change in elec- toral fortunes, does indeed seem rather remote. Nonetheless, the campaign has still thrown up a few 'surprises'. For instance: while a drop in voter turn- out was all along to be expected – given that the rate of electoral participation has always dropped slight- ly, in every election since 1971 – no one could real- istically have expected that it would dip so sharply, from 2017 to today. As with every other previous election, a percent- age of the electorate has, in fact, already cast their vote. And according the Electoral Commission, on- ly 85.15% turned up to these early voting sessions: down from 91.7% in 2017. If this is an indication of the final turn-out – and it usually is – then it suggests that the rate of ab- stention in 2022, may be even higher than the 12% predicted by this newspaper's running poll. Meanwhile, there are 14,473 voters who have al- ready abstained, by refusing to pick up their voting document before last Thursday's midnight deadline. This equates to 4.1% of eligible voters: almost double the 2.4% of 2017. Regardless of the actual result, then, it is safe to predict that Elections 2022 will be characterised by a much higher rate of voter-disillusionment than we are accustomed to. This in turn also explains the note of urgency that crept into both Labour and PN's campaigns, as election day drew nearer. Understandably enough, both Prime Minister Rob- ert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech are concerned: not just because both parties seem to be affected (albeit to different degrees) by this same voter apathy; but also because statistics indicate that this lack of interest in the political system, may ex- tend substantially in future. A recent MaltaToday survey, for instance, suggests that a staggering 40% of 'new voters' – a category that now also includes 16-year-olds, for the first time – have no intention of voting at all. The same survey reveals that almost 25% of respondents 'trust neither Robert Abela or Bernard Grech'. These considerations may not, in themselves, ex- plain the sheer extent of the phenomenon: but they do point in a rather clear direction. Indeed, it is not all that 'surprising' that this elec- tion would have elicited such low levels of interest, when one also considers that: The very predictability of the outcome may have backfired on Labour, by convincing its less-enthu- siastic supporters that their vote was not actually 'needed'; Both parties are plagued by internal divisions and discontent of their own (it is particularly ominous for the PN, for instance, that so many voting docu- ments remained uncollected in the traditionally Na- tionalist 10th District). Both parties have now gravitated so far towards the political centre, that there is now hardly any differ- ence between them at all, at any ideological and/or policy level; Both parties are traditionally beholden to precise- ly the same lobby-groups and commercial pressures (resulting in identical policy-platforms on virtually all the most sensitive issues in the country); The actual 'stakes' in this election have never been higher than a simple continuation of a government that – whatever its other flaws – is both functional, and stable; And lastly, that the entire campaign itself – on both sides – never really extended beyond a simply 'pop- ularity contest' between two rather lacklustre party leaders: both of whom were at best disappointing, when it came to the substance of their actual polit- ical message. Under such circumstances, one cannot expect the same voter enthusiasm that has characterised elec- tions in the past: where the stakes were much high- er; the campaign issues much more compelling; and above all, the prospect of a change in government so much more 'consequential'. From this perspective, the two parties only have themselves to blame, really, for failing to inspire the electorate with anything truly ground-breaking, or innovative. Moreover, there are lessons to be learnt even by the smaller parties: who have once again col- lectively failed to capitalise on the situation. But the future implications of increasing voter-de- tachment – even if it is still in its early stages – go far beyond how Malta's political parties are affected themselves. Ultimately, it is democracy itself that will emerge the loser, if voter participation drops too far beyond the (admittedly still high) 88% predicted by our polls. Not just because of lower turnouts, in and of them- selves; but rather, because of what the phenomenon portends… that is, a general detachment from the sacrosanct view that 'We, The People' are really the ones who are 'in charge'. Nonetheless, the buck stops with Malta's political establishment to rise to this challenge – for democ- racy's sake, if not their own – and to convince voters that the expression 'every vote counts' is more than just an empty, electioneering slogan. But they cannot possibly do this, without first ac- knowledging their own responsibility for this state of affairs. 27 March 2012 'Independent inquiry or none at all', Nicholas Azzopardi's father insists THE father of the late Nicholas Azzopardi, Joe, has insisted that an inquiry looking into his son's death must be "independent or none at all". On Friday, Police Commissioner John Riz- zo asked the Attorney General to reopen the magisterial inquiry into the death of Nicholas Azzopardi, who died after sustaining serious injuries when allegedly 'jumping off' the bas- tions beneath the Floriana Police Headquarters in 2008. The Commissioner's request was made fol- lowing media reports about the case which have emerged in the past week. Last Sunday, MaltaToday revealed that Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici had refused to reopen the inquiry. However, yesterday, six days after the pub- lication of this statement on mt, Carm Mifsud Bonnici denied that he had opposed the re-opening of the inquiry. MaltaToday's call for a fresh inquiry was made following the arrest of former police sergeant Adrian Lia, who was crucial in deter- mining the outcome of the Nicholas Azzopardi inquiry. The former police sergeant had also deceived the police force and the government into be- lieving he had saved a woman from drowning 14 years ago. "The inquiry must now be totally independ- ent of government. If not, the inquiry would mean nothing to me and my family," Nicholas Azzopardi's father insisted with MaltaToday. He added that the lack of an independent inquiry would "only be a repetition of the two inquiries held soon after Nicholas's death." Nicholas Azzopardi died 13 days after he was arrested and was allegedly beaten up by police officers at the Floriana police headquarters on 8 April. Hours before he died on 22 April, he told his family and inquiring magistrate that he had been heavily beaten up by his interrogators while under arrest. His family believe Azzopardi was attacked by an officer who flung a side-kick, breaking his ribs and puncturing his lung. ... Quote of the Week "The outcry of educators and the public, following the announced changes without any consultation, need to be considered thoroughly and consensus need to be sought" Statement by the MUT reacting to a legal notice on student entry requirements to the University of Malta Junior College MaltaToday 10 years ago

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